Friday, January 7, 2011

Schweinshaxe - German Pork Knuckles

I've taken a little break from blogging due to the holidays and I decided to get back into it with another German pork recipe.

Schweinshaxe are basically roasted pork hocks or ham hocks and it is popular in the Bravarian region of Germany. It features the crispy skin of the hock while being seasoned by paprika, caraway, mustard seed, other spices/herb and basted with beer. It is a simple poorman's dish but I'm expecting big flavors after having one at a German restaurant in the past. In case you don't know where the hocks are in a pig, here is a photo.

Ha, no, I'm just joking around. Here it is:

Ham or pork hocks are widely used for making stocks but the meat is very good and edible. Give it a try if you haven't already.

I am excited to use for the first time a gift Santa brought me, the dutch oven. I have been longing one for some time to expand my cooking abilities and opportunities. Here, I brown the skin first and then place in the preheated oven to roast for two hours. I can't wait.

Here is the recipe:

  • 2lbs pork or ham hocks
  • pepper/salt/paprika
  • oil or lard, for browning
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon crushed juniper berries
  • 1/2 tablespoon clove
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 cup water, boiling
  • 1/2 cup (or more) good German beer, for basting

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse and pat dry hocks. Cut skin diagonally to make diamond/square patterns in skin. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika.

Heat oil/lard in a dutch oven and brown the hocks on all sides, for about 10 minutes total. Peel and quarter an onion and add to pot along with bay leaf, berries, cloves, and seeds.

Add the cup of boiling water and a little beer into the pot. Place dutch oven in middle of the oven and roast for 1.5 to 2 hours. Baste with beer.

Remove hocks from pan and add some beer to scrape up the bits on the bottom of pan. Thicken the sauce using 2 tablespoons of cornstarch/water paste and season with salt and pepper.

For a German side, I am making German potato dumplings a.k.a Kartoffel Knödel.
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled, boiled, and cooled
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1.5 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 eggs
Grate the potatoes or use a potato ricer.
Add eggs, flour, salt and mix well together.
Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and drop them into boiling water. Gently boil for 10 minutes. Top with beer gravy.

Well there it is, the German pork knuckle. I have to be honest with you. I FAILED at it. Something was off. I believe it was in the gravy. Perhaps it was the beer I chose to baste the pork with. There was a bitter taste. Perhaps there was too much clove and I should have be wary of the clove because I am not a big fan of the flavor and I should have added less than I did.

The meat from the hock was tasty though. Nicely braised and tender, meaty, well-balanced porky flavor, but I couldn't get past the clove and bitter beer taste. The potato dumpling worked well. I believe I added 1 egg to many as I ended up with a sticky, gummy mess while trying to shape the dumplings. But with a litte salt and pepper, they tasted good (despite the gravy).

It is a shame but it happens in the kitchen. You can't always hit the home run. Sometimes your efforts don't pay off. It is ok though, you turn it into a learning experience.

There were a few positives. I really liked my dutch oven and I got to drink some really quality German beer.


  1. I just got a butcher in town to sell me 8 haxe cuts and I am going to attempt - have you tried again and had any luck?

  2. Just a suggestion for the next time. (disclaimer, I've never made this recipe - this is just general cook's instinct.)

    First, looks like 1 egg *should* be enough. It may also be that you're using larger eggs than the original cook.

    Second, looking at your ingredients, it looks like you've got "tablespoons" for cloves when it should be *teaspoons.* That much clove is likely going to leave too much numbing clove oil in the recipe.

    And finally, as to the beer - I recommend using the same guideline you use cooking with wine - make sure it's a beer that tastes like it has the right characteristics for the dish. One which is too dark and bitter won't give you the same results as a sweeter brew anymore than a dry wine has the right characteristics if you need something sweeter. I found this out to my own disappointment thinking that I'd prefer a famous Irish stout for making beer bread when I was used to a weak, sweet (cheap!) beer which gave the bread a sweeter taste.

  3. I find beer always adds bitterness. I added some wine. I also think that meat surrounded by fat is self basting. It is in the oven now. Will let you know.

  4. they came out nice. 1 or 2 whole cloves are plenty. white wine or dry vermouth is the better liquid. drop from 400 to 325 after about 30min and cook it 3 to 3.5 hours. apple sauce is a nicer balance than gravy, or sour kraut, or mustard.

  5. I use an apple ale - works well with the spices & always goes well with pork. trying out the dumplings (again) wish me luck.

  6. This seems like a foreign recipe to me.

    In Bavaria, we tend to grill or roast our haxen. If i had to guess i would say this is from the middle of Germany.

    If you want better sauce, you need to use dark beer, something that tastes rather sweet. The more the beer tastes like hops, the more bitter your sauce will turn out.

    And please: NO apple sauce or apple-anything. That is just disgusting!

    Greetings from Munich :)

  7. The Hopfen-Weisse you used is a very hoppy beer, which would explain the bitterness. For cooking a sweetish, malty lager would be better.

    1. When my mother made the potato dumpling she would always leave the cooked potatoes sit in the refrigerator for one to two days with a loose cover. They would dry out a bit and less mushy.